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A Cure For Claustrophobia?

Question:

How can I cure claustrophobia that has been slowing killing me for the past 10 years.

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

Phobias are fears of specific situations or things. Claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces. Other phobias include agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), fear of heights, fear of blood, and fear of spiders. People with specific phobias are afraid of specific situations or things and often find they have panic attacks when confronted with those situations or things. Consequently, they learn to avoid going near those situations and things. Whether or not a phobia will impact your lifestyle has a lot to do with whether or not you are forced to confront your fear on a regular basis. Someone with a fear of heights would not do well as a window-washer. However, someone with a fear of spiders can probably live comfortably so long as he or she has a vacuum cleaner close at hand and doesn’t go into the woods.

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p> The fears phobic people have are unrealistic – they may even know this – but they are typically unable to act on this knowledge because they become so overwhelmed with panic when they even think too much about what they are afraid of. A phobic person responds to their fear feelings with avoidance – they run away and so never get to see that what they are afraid of is not actually that dangerous. The trick to treating phobias is to help the person to gradually learn how to tolerate their feelings of anxiety so that they don’t have to run away. If you can get a phobic person to remain in their fear, they typically begin to learn that they don’t really have anything to be afraid of and their phobia lessens. The therapy of choice for phobias is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Therapists trained in CBT should be able to work with you to help you confront your fear without having to run away, helping you to see that being in an enclosed space is not really dangerous. Importantly, this is done gradually and gently, often using your imagination rather than requiring you to face any actual enclosed space. This sort of therapy is highly effective in helping phobic individuals to feel better.

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  • Michelle Peters

    Hello i love this site

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